Sleep is the ultimate parenting challenge. After reading not one but two things yesterday about just how drastically sleep loss and fatigue age your skin, my first thought was, Isn’t that just perfect.
Because for most parents in the 40ish range, this means that after a rough night up with the little ones, perfect strangers may mistake you for Dame Judy Dench, even if you’re still aiming to pass for Amy Poehler.
It’s true that I’m enjoying a relatively calm sleep moment in my life right now, or should I say, my family’s life. We’re in the middling grade school years; my kids conk out as if sedated. (I swear: I don’t drug them.) I deserve this, by the way. I survived endless toddler wake ups for every reason imaginable—the bogey man; terrible thirst requiring a single, delicate sip of water; the bleary-eyed, quick change of wet sheets after an accident; or, worst of all, the whispered announcement into my slumbering ear, “Mommy, I think I’m going to throw up,” followed by projectile vomiting onto my face.
So things have been smooth sailing—for a spell. And my skin is finally getting a break! But I know what’s coming around the corner, since my oldest daughter turns 12 soon: The teen years. And from what I’ve read, in about a year or so I can expect to refrain from all shuteye until roughly 2024.
Because lack of sleep is not the only thing that instantly ages you. Here are a few other parenting challenges that will add on the years in just minutes:
The Ignored Demand
You yell out into the darkened yard for your kid to come inside. All you hear is *crickets*. You nicely ask your tween to pull herself away from Animal Jam long enough to down some sustenance—dinner. More blatant chirps-chirps. As your blood pressure rises, the actual blood drains from your face, bringing out that deeply entrenched furrow between your eyebrows. Accelerated wrinkle factor: 3 years.
That Call From School at 11 a.m.
Your iPhone reveals “The School” is ringing. You are moments from giving the most important presentation of your career. Your boss is staring you down. Could it be from the principal? The nurse? God forbid, has there been an accident? And how do you deal with it without pissing off your employer? Accelerated wrinkle factor: 5 years.
The Broken Curfew
He promised he’d be back with the car no later than 11. It’s past midnight now. He hasn’t picked up your calls, or answered your many texts. Worse, the “Find Your Friends” app you insisted he install on his phone, which is really just a way to stalk him through GPS, has been disabled. Accelerated wrinkle factor: 12 years.
The ‘I Hate You’ Moment
You were dreading this moment: Your 16-year-old daughter screamed she hated you after you grounded her for life for saying she was sleeping over at her BFF’s house, when really she was boozing in someone’s parked car on an unlit street. Accelerated wrinkle factor: 14 years.
The Impromptu Party
You went to care for your own aging parents for a single overnight and returned to the ruins of what used to be your home. The sofa is smoking from a buried cigarette butt in its cushions. There are plastic beer cups strewn and spilling amber liquid on every imaginable surface. Someone’s dirty underwear is found on the back patio. Your two teenagers are sobbing they only invited over four friends, they swear. Accelerated wrinkle factor: 16 years.
Your Husband’s Dislike for the Boyfriend
He’s scruffy. He smells vaguely of pot. He grunts, but never hello, and never in your direction. Your daughter is wild for him. You tell your husband not to draw firm lines in the sand or you’ll risk further pushing her into his arms. His boiling agitation over the thought of their hitting Planned Parenthood together has literally greyed his hair—and yours. Accelerated wrinkle factor: 19 years.
The Long Hug Goodbye When He Leaves Home for College
You unload his bags in his dorm room. Make small talk as your tour the cafeteria and the quad. Pretend that your baby isn’t flying the coop, leaving you an Empty Nester. Accelerated wrinkle factor: There’s no point in measuring—every wrinkle was worth it, even if you’d gladly age some more just to do it all again.